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Is God Violent? A brief “Q” & “R” With Brian McLaren July 27, 2010

Q:
Your chapter on whether God is violent or not was helpful. However, this is something that I really continue to struggle with…the biggest issues I have are how violent and at times selective God seems to be…why does God put evil spirits on people and harden people’s hearts…

R:
First, it’s so good you’re reading through the whole Bible.  It’s dangerous, I think, when we only hear the Bible in little tiny chunks that fit into sermons. We miss so much of the big sweep … and we miss many of the big tensions as well, as you’re seeing now.

On God putting an evil spirit on Saul, or hardening Pharoah’s heart, etc., theologians deal with this in a number of ways. What has been most helpful to me is to realize that in the ancient world, there is little consciousness of intermediate causality. If lightning strikes, God (or the gods) did it – because there’s little understanding of intermediate causes like atmospheric convection, heat transfer, cold fronts, static electricity, and the like. I suppose calling natural disasters “acts of God” continues this tradition.

If people in the Bible see things in a certain way – no intermediate causality – does that obligate us to reject any other explanation? I’d say no. Just as we no longer feel obligated to say the sun circles the earth – even though this is clearly the language of the Bible, reflecting the “world view” of the time – I don’t feel obligated to ignore intermediate causality when I interpret Biblical language and thought forms and seek to be guided by them in today’s world. I might also add that sometimes, the biblical storytellers seem to be trying to “save” God … If Pharoah hardens his own heart, it sounds like God isn’t omnipotent. So they say that God hardens Pharoahs heart, thus solving that problem, but creating another. (In their day, the danger of giving Pharoah too much credit may have been worth the risk … but today, making God responsible for evil seems like the greater risk.)

We – all of us – do the same sort of thing today, again and again – trying to solve one problem and unintentionally creating other ones. That’s one reason I recommend reading the Bible as a library, and not giving any single text the final word … as if it were an article in a constitution.

On Saul getting a bad rap, yes, I agree. The Bible presents human beings with much more maturity and nuance than we often do … We (especially we Americans) love to paint the world into simple good guys and bad guys, forgetting that the bad guys have a lot of good, and the good guys a lot of bad. If some Biblical passages seem “primitive” to us in terms of intermediate causality, they’re often far more mature and nuanced in terms of human nature than many of our modern preachers are.

Again, if we let the Bible be a library, then we can let various authors/storytellers have their perspectives and vested interests. Part of our job as wise readers is to discern those vested interests, and take account of them in our interpretation.

This sensitivity to vested interests in the Bible helps us, I think, when looking at political issues today. There are upsides and downsides to this or that immigration bill, tax bill, energy bill, whatever. People usually simply take sides – fer it or agin it. But the Biblical library teaches us that there’s a higher perspective, where we can learn to see both the upsides and downsides of all sides … That way, even if we are for something, we won’t be naive about its downsides, and vice versa.

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Read The Full Q & R in context.  CLICK HERE.

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Read About, and Purchase, “A New Kind Of Christianity.”  CLICK HERE.

 

The Myth Of A Christian Nation July 15, 2010

Gregory A. Boyd:
“If Jesus wasn’t concerned about ‘taking Israel back for God’ by political means, why would any who align themselves with his kingdom aspire to ‘take back America for God’ by these means?”
“Did Jesus ever suggest by word or example that we should aspire to acquire, let alone take over, the power of Caesar?  Did Jesus spend any time and energy trying to improve, let alone dominate, the reigning government of his day?  Did he ever work to pass laws against the sinners he hung out with and ministered to?  Did he worry at all about ensuring that his rights and the religious rights of his followers were protected?  Does any author in the New Testament remotely hint that engaging in this sort of activity has anything to do with the kingdom of God?
The answer to all these questions is, of course, no.”
“However we, as American citizens, might personally decide to weigh in on these issues politically, we should not attach the label Christian to this activity.”
“Of course our political views will be influenced by our Christian faith.  But we must also recognize that people who have diametrically opposing views may believe they too are advancing the kingdom.”  [Again, this hit home with me through Philip Yancey’s statement that Hillary Clinton was pro-choice, not in opposition to Christianity, but rather because of her Christian faith.- df]

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There are a couple or so ideas in this book that I most definitely do not agree with.
They are beliefs, however, I also held at one time.  I don’t wish, though, to
focus on what I don’t agree with, since most of this book expounds upon what may very well
be one of the most crucial messages of our time.  It would be very difficult to over-emphasize
the importance of this book.

The body of Christ needs a wake-up call to shake it from its
thirst for violence, hatred and bloodshed.  What many evangelicals call
a “Christian Worldview” is nothing but a religious version of the political, power-
hungry kingdom of the world.  More than one prominent televangelist has, in reference to our enemies, said things  like “Blow them away to the Glory of God.”
Rest assured that this rhetoric, whether spoken by Christians, Muslims, or any other socio-religious political group, is NOT the way of Jesus…OR of His followers.
— df
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Some quotes follow, which may be periodically updated.

Buy the book. Click HERE.
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“Evangelical Christians who align themselves too closely with political
causes or declare that they want to bring America ‘back to God’ are
actually doing harm—both to the body of Christ and society in general.”

From the Back Cover:
The church was established to serve the world with Christ-like love, not to rule the world. It is called to look like a corporate Jesus, dying on the cross for those who crucified him, not a religious version of Caesar. It is called to manifest the kingdom of the cross in contrast to the kingdom of the sword. Whenever the church has succeeded in gaining what most American evangelicals are now trying to get — political power — it has been disastrous both for the church and the culture. Whenever the church picks up the sword, it lays down the cross.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“It’s difficult to overemphasize the change that occurred when, in AD312, the emperor Constantine was converted.  This was the first time anyone ever associated the Christian faith with violence, but its success stained the church from then on.  [Constantine made] it a crime not to be a Christian.  The kingdom of God, manifested in the crucified Nazarene, had become the empire of Christendom.  What followed was a long and terrible history of people using the sword “in Jesus’ name for the glory of God.”
(That demonic perversion continues in much of American Christianity today. – df)

Participants in the kingdom of the world trust the power of the sword to control behavior; participants of the kingdom of God trust the power of self-sacrificial love to transform hearts.”

“We believe in our nation over and against their nation, our religion over and against their religion, our culture over and against their culture, our political ideology over and against their political ideology, and so on.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“By God’s design, people are not to be won over primarily by our clever arguments, scary religious tracts, impressive programs, or our sheer insistence that they are going to hell unless they share out theological opinions.  No, they are to be won over by the way in which we replicate Calvary to them.  That are to see and experience the reality of the coming kingdom in us.”

“The best way to get people to lay down the cross is to hand them the sword!”

On ‘God and Country’:
“We have allowed out allegiance to the kingdom of God to be compromised by allegiance to our nation, and allowed the flag to smother the cross.  The time to turn completely from this Constantinian Idolatry is long overdue.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Perhaps it would be a benefit if the word GOD wasn’t so trivially sprinkled on our coins, our Pledge of Allegiance, our civic functions, and elsewhere. We end up wasting precious time and  resources defending and tweaking the civil religion – as though doing  so had some kingdom value.”

“What if the energy and resources used to preserve and tweak the civil religion was rather spent feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, befriending the drug addict, and visiting the prisoner?  What if instead of trying to legally make life more difficult for gays, we worried only about how we could affirm their unsurpassable worth in service to them?  What if instead of trying  to defend our religious rights, Christians concerned themselves with siding with others whose rights are routinely trampled?”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Believing Jesus will soon “rapture” Christians out of the world, they have little concern with the church being a witness on issues of social justice, global peace, the environment, and so on.  Whatever else one thinks  about the New Testament’s eschatology, it certainly does not encourage this sort of escapism.”

“We must refrain from doing what Jesus never did: Namely, positioning ourselves as wiser, morally superior guardians and “fixers” of others.  Moral guardianship is what the Pharisees did — not Jesus.”
“Like Jesus, no part of Paul’s kingdom ministry involved trying to tweak the morality of the culture at large.”

“We kill and die for our freedom and the freedom of others.  But why should a kingdom person think killing for this reason is a legitimate exception to the New Testament’s command to love an bless enemies?”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

One Will Be Taken July 12, 2010


In Matthew 24, Jesus tells his disciples, “One will be taken and the other left.”
This passage has been, and continues to be, used by authoritarian, legalistic religion as
a threat to scare people about being “left behind” at the Rapture.

But nothing could be further from the truth.
What is Jesus really talking about in this oft-misunderstood passage?

Click HERE for more.

 

Free, Or Just Rebellious? July 8, 2010

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Check out Wayne’s site at: http://www.lifestream.org

 

The Truth (with jokes) July 7, 2010





“Using access to confidential documents and firsthand accounts, Franken weaves the true story of the Making of the President 2004, staring the Three Horsemen of the Republican Apocalypse: Fear, Smears, and Queers.”


The above is taken from the Foreword of Al Franken’s “The Truth (with jokes).”

This is a good informational follow-up to Franken’s “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”   The documented and undeniable deceit, corruption, and manipulation by the Bush administration is truly mind-boggling!
This particular book is filled with play by play accounts of the post 9/11 America, and how those in power used fear, among other things, to dupe a nation into unnecessary war, and torture. It was not about right and wrong. It was not about morals. It was not about justice. It was, to be sure, about power and money.


Also discussed is the Terri Schiavo case: an example of how a family’s suffering was exploited for political purposes.
Then there’s the examination of a little island by the name of Saipan. Saipan is a place where, basically, things like slave labor, forced abortion, and other horrible atrocities are committed in order for us to get the designer clothing we need for our survival. Here’s the thing: Saipan is actually owned by the United States. So, all these goods produced under these despicable conditions can still be labeled with “Made In The USA.”


For entertainment value, “Lies…” was a much more enjoyable book. It still had lots of “expose” type material. It was, though, more broad-based. But, if you really want to know what levers the “wizard” was pulling behind the curtains, this book will chronicle that for you.

We all have the right to support whomever we wish, but we also have a responsibility to investigate the truth about those whom we support. As for myself, I have truly had to repent before God for my right-wing, conservative, evangelical mindset.  What is often promoted as a “Christian worldview,” is nothing more than a perverted political position wrapped in manipulative religion. These charlatans use a few “hot-button” issues, like abortion and gay rights, to stir up the conservatives and attempt to claim some kind of moral high ground, all while committing some of the most immoral activities imaginable. People like Tom DeLay, “who reportedly spends hours a week in church praying to his pro-life God,” while perpetrating crimes against humanity that make me want to vomit.


So, if you can handle “The Truth” and the “Jokes,” pick up a copy and prepare to be educated.
— df

 

Bible Loves Me July 6, 2010

 

Eve Of Destruction 2012 July 5, 2010



So many Christians are still so totally focused on “over there,” they ignore what God
calls us to take care of “here and now.”
We need to take care of the earth God has given us, and of each other.
Thanks again, Barry, for helping to restore our focus.
— df

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“McGuire continues to promote the awareness of social and environmental justice.”
—  The Urchins

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Barry says:
“Give it a look and a listen.  You might have to watch it two or three times.
It’s one of the heaviest things I’ve ever done.  Please feel free to forward it to
anyone that you think might benefit from viewing it.”

Watch the video HERE.
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BUY IT HERE.



Here are the Lyrics:

Well the Western World is in danger
We the People have become like strangers
Taking polls and opinions while the fabric decays
For the greed of the few how much the innocent pays
And the children are watching, you can hear how they pray

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
How you don’t believe we’re still on the eve of destruction

Think of this green Earth, a tropical rainforest
And take a look around to the Sahara Desert
We wanna cut it down, burn it to the ground leave barren and waste
Till there’s no room for living, animals, rivers or lakes
And there’s nothing to stop it but a miracle of faith

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
said you don’t believe we’re still on the eve of destruction
now you don’t believe we’re still on the eve of destruction

I know you understand what we’re trying to say
Can’t you see the madness that’s lead up to today?
We believe its time for a change, for a new golden age
Where the business of life runs in harmony with nature
For nature reflects the beauty within ourselves
And this changin’ attitude would ring out the Liberty Bells
For the hungry and the homeless and the helpless as well

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
saying you don’t believe we’re still on the eve of destruction
oh you don’t believe we’re still on the eve of destruction

At the source of silence, we’ll sings songs of creation
Transcending the boundaries of our soul’s imagination
You can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Cuz the truth is in Love, Freedom and Cooperation
Let there be peace in your heart, that’s all right, that’s where it starts
Let there be peace tonight, in all the Nations
For the music of life is in (our last deliberation?)

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
saying you don’t believe we’re still on the eve of destruction
no, no, no you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

Watch the video HERE.
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BUY IT HERE.

 

 
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